KFC: how the colonel crossed the road
An object lesson in how a leading brand turned a potential public relations disaster around
When the unthinkable happened and KFC in the UK had to close its stores because chicken supplies dried up, its image was badly battered. Consumers were crossing the road to Burger King and tweeting about it.
Desperate to hang onto its legions of fans, KFC issued a statement which said: "The colonel is working on it ... Hope to see you in our restaurants soon."
Incensed fans began taking desperate measures. Some contacted the local police, demanding an intervention, prompting the constabulary to tweet: "Please do not contact us about the #KFCCrisis; it is not a police matter if your favourite eatery is not serving the menu that you desire."
This fiasco was destined to become a sombre business school lesson in how not to manage a supply chain.
But just when all seemed lost, KFC winged it and transformed the crisis into a public relations opportunity with a full-page advertisement in UK newspapers The Sun and Metro.
Agency Mother London’s brainwave was to rearrange KFC into FCK, and place this on an empty chicken bucket with the message "We’re sorry" beneath it.
The result was astounding. It demonstrated the power of the simplest of old-school advertisements, the newspaper full page. Once commuters had seen it and photographed it for their social media accounts, the ad went viral and KFC was loved once more.
From a supply chain disaster emerged a PR success story. Apparently there is still no better way to win over the public than by having a full-throated laugh at yourself.